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Success is not a one-way street that let’s you coast on your bike while riding downhill. There are lots of pot holes, flat tires, some flowers on the way, but mostly, it’s up and down, and you just need to believe in yourself and keep on going. You will experience true success as you invest time and energy in actions and projects that make you feel satisfied and fulfilled.

Top 1% moments help us define what success means at different stages in our life.

These top 1% moments are available to all of us regardless of where we are in our life—married, single, lots of money, no money, fancy graduate degrees, no degrees, kids, no kids, love your job, despise your job, old, young, lots of challenges, or minimal challenges. These accomplishments are important to recognize and celebrate because when one of us reaches higher, we can all leverage the inspiration to take a step further ourselves.

A top 1% moment is when you accomplish something that you feel good about and is meaningful to you. They can be big or small—ordering business cards, swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida (thank you, Diana Nyad), going to sleep before midnight, changing careers, writing your first book, successfully leading a team project, buying your first home, re-connecting with a relative, running fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer (thank you, Marathon Goddess), getting back into your photography hobby, earning your certification as a yoga teacher, making your first public speech, completing your first 5k walk/run, or simply making yourself a priority.

These moments expand your view of what’s possible and build confidence in yourself. Top 1% moments help us define our personal best. It’s not a competition; it’s about cooperating. We can all live in our top 1%.

Here are the recurring themes that emerge with my clients when they experience their top 1% moments:

Dream: The journey starts with an exciting dream. Your dream/goal may seem impossible and crazy to others, but it’s not about them; it’s about what adds meaning to YOUR life. For example, Diana Nyad recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. After four failed attempts to complete her goal, Diana, at the ripe age of sixty-four, became the first woman to complete this accomplishment while swimming without a shark cage to protect her. This was going to be her last attempt either way. And yes, swimming 110 miles and fifty-three hours is definitely beyond what most of us can comprehend. (If you are not a swimmer, substitute that word for something that does represent YOUR dream.) Diana’s journey showed us what it means to have a dream and pursue it.

Belief (a.k.a. mindset): All people who achieve top 1% moments have a deep belief in self. Even when others think your dream is crazy, YOU need to believe it. That’s key with every new invention or achievement. You may not know how you’re going to do it, but you believe you CAN. This is exactly what happened with Julie Weiss, known as the Marathon Goddess. She had a crazy idea to run fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and funds to benefit pancreatic cancer (she lost her father to the disease). She had no idea how the journey would unfold. She started with one marathon, and for the next year, she did a marathon every week while working her full-time job. She’s raised over $200,000 and has decided to continue running marathons and raising awareness.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
Nelson Mandela

Challenges: Every top 1% achievement has challenges. There is no other way. The challenges may seem unique, but they are all just challenges—time, money, resources, health, knowledge, motivation, etc. Challenges test how much you want to complete your goal. Whether you are looking to take a photography class or complete your first 5k race, speed bumps will show up, but know they are not a valid reason to abandon your heartfelt goals.

Resilience: You may fail several times and feel discouraged many times before success. Diana failed four times and tried one more time—that alone is courageous and a top 1% effort. Part of living in your top 1% is knowing when to move on. Diana understood this and decided this would have been her last attempt. Even if she didn’t complete the swim, it would have been a top 1% effort. Often, when we are operating in the unknown territory, it’s scary, and you start to doubt yourself. Every top 1% moment has that brief period where you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. It’s part of the process, so don’t let the feeling push you off course.

Age: Often, you will be on the wrong side of the age factor—too old, too young, too much experience, or not enough experience. Perhaps you’re too young to start a business or too old to change careers. Forget this and keep moving forward. Disregard age as an excuse. As forty-one-year-old Olympic medalist Dara Torres said, “the water doesn’t know your age…[goals] may become harder to achieve, but your dreams can’t stop because you’ve hit a certain age.” Invest the time to figure out what you want to do and keep moving forward.

Stretch Zone: Every great dream and goal pushes you into your stretch zone—the zone where you need to draw on your strengths, face uncertainty, move past challenges, and achieve something beyond what many thought was possible. When you declare that you are writing a book or changing jobs, there will be lots of uncertainty and challenges. Top 1% moments do not happen in your comfort or stress zone. They happen in the stretch zone.

Top 1% Team: Although great journeys may start from an individual effort, they are more commonly team efforts. Diana Nyad had over thirty people on her team helping her navigate the waters, chart her course, and provide care during her swim. Epic efforts require resources from many different areas. Do you have the right team to help you share YOUR top 1%?

Everyone can enjoy top 1% moments from any starting place. You need to show up with the willingness to invest time and effort, face challenges, and make progress. You will find yourself completely committed to your vision when it’s meaningful and genuinely excites you. You may have some speed bumps or flat tires on your path, so stay on your course. Your top 1% moments can be big or small as long as they’re meaningful to you.

What dream speaks to your heart?


Alissa Finerman is a Professional Business/Life Coach, motivational speaker, and author of Living in Your Top 1%. She works with individuals and organizations to help them think bigger, redefine what’s possible, and get results. Alissa has an MBA from the Wharton School and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She has appeared on national radio stations such as CBS and Clear Channel Radio and has worked with the Milken Institute, LA Business Journal, Prostate Cancer Foundation, and NBC Universal. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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*Image of Julie Weiss (Marathon Goddess) by ceezjr.